Washington (CNN) - A House Democrat compared Republicans to one of the most reviled Nazis during World War ll– ignoring efforts on both sides of the aisle to tone down the political rhetoric.
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, used a late night House floor speech Tuesday to hit Republicans for what he called "lies" about a government takeover of the health care system, and evoked Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
"They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie, just like Goebbels. You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie and eventually people believe it," he said.
Cohen, who is Jewish, went on to compare that "lie" to the term "blood libel," a phrase that historically was used to falsely accuse Jews of killing Christian children. In present times, the term has come to be understood by some as any false accusation of murder. Sarah Palin used the term last week, but Cohen did not mention her by name in his speech.
"Blood libel. That's the same kind of thing. The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it and you had the Holocaust. We've heard it over and over again on this floor, government takeover of health care. Politifact, non-partisan, Pulitzer Prize winning 2009 St. Petersburg times said the biggest lie of 2010 was government takeover of health care because there is no government takeover," said Cohen.
Cohen made his comments after the formal health care debate had concluded for the night Tuesday, during what is known as special orders. Members of the minority party traditionally use this time to come to the House floor to make speeches, generally to a nearly empty chamber.
In a telephone interview with Cohen Wednesday he stood by his comments.
"I didn't see anything wrong with it. Goebbels was the great propagandist of probably the 20th century, and his whole theory was if you tell the lie over and over again people will believe it," Cohen told CNN.
Still, Cohen said he didn't believe he was comparing Republicans to Nazis.
"I wasn't trying to say, never would say, haven't said and wouldn't say that the Republicans are akin to the party that he [Goebbels] was a part of, but they [Republicans] did lie and they've said the lie over and over again," Cohen said.
"The fact is that the government takeover of health care is a lie," he said.
"I don't think I was comparing the Republicans to Goebbels. I was saying that lies are lies and Goebbels was the great perpetrator of lies and that's a danger, and if you look at Goebbels you can see the lie that he told about Jews which he constantly did, became considered fact in Germany that the Jews were evil, and people got involved and didn't stand up."
Cohen also denied his comments ignored his party leadership's pleas to tone down the rhetoric following the shooting of their colleague, Gabrielle Giffords.
"I think civility is not lying, and if you can't come up and say that somebody is lying when they're lying, then the lie becomes the truth. That's not uncivil to say somebody lied," he said.
But, after several questions about the appropriateness of evoking a Nazi to make that point, Cohen did say that "there are no Nazis in Congress, there are some liars, but no Nazis."
Cohen said he has not heard from his party leadership about his remarks.